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Pennsylvania Fining Nursing Homes at Higher Rate

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has levied $816,000 in fines against nursing home providers already in the first half of 2017. That is more than double the $407,450 in fines handed out in 2016.  The department also handed out fines of $170,050 in 2015 and $62,000 in 2014.

In 2014, there were 7 cases where the department found a citation that had caused a resident actual harm. So far in 2017, there have been 88 cases.  This vast increase in fines is due mostly to regulators using a more rigorous penalty system.  The rigorousness is coming after receiving criticism for being too lenient on insufficient care.  “When the auditor general looked at our oversight of nursing homes, one of the key recommendations was to be more aggressive in our oversight, and we are,” the department said earlier this year in a statement.  In October 2016, Secretary of Health Karen Murphy announced that the department would be using more discretion in determining how much it would fine facilities.  The department will be taking into account the level of harm, how long it takes for a problem to be fixed, the facility’s track record of compliance, and other factors.

April Hutcheson, a department spokeswoman, said the department has resumed using federally mandated anonymous reporting, which had been discontinued previously. State surveyors also received federal training last year for how to identify the scope and severity of the situation “and, as a result, we have seen an increase in citations of deficiencies at the actual harm and immediate jeopardy level,” said Lorraine Ryan, a CMS spokeswoman.

The Department of Health conducts inspections of nursing homes to make sure they are following the regulations. Nursing homes that have a history of serious problems are inspected more frequently. The inspections are random and the facilities do not have advanced notice of them.

The inspection team is made up of a registered nurse and usually a nutritionist and/or a social worker. The members of the inspection team are different for each facility inspection (depending on the past problems of the nursing home).

For a list of the things that the inspection team looks for on a survey visit the Pennsylvania Department of Health website.

Here you can see a chart of the sanctions handed out by the PA Dept. of Health from 2014-2017.